“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Faith also means reaching deeply within, for the sense one was born with, the sense, for example, to go for a walk.”
― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
Inspired by Dr Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfections.
This chapter has humbled me in so many ways and I remember listening to it over and over and just having lots of aha moments. These revelation moments came in huge bursts of laughter or sobbing moments until I reached work, I cried as I realised how far I had shifted from faith and intuition to a heightened desire for assurance and certainty in so many areas of my life. I am now constantly aware of these moments of fear of the future, or this data gathering process, whose intention does not strengthen my faith but does the complete opposite. The habits at time are meant with good intentions, but end up being used as a benchmarking process, which end up limiting my very own creativity because basically I would have stretched myself, BUT within certain limits, based on other bad experiences of the similar process or decisions made. I sometimes think being skilled in financial controls, detection and prevention contributes to this risk averse type of response to life.
This chapter made me understand the concept of the “first love “as the bible verse in Revelations so intimately refers to it.
Revelations 2: To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand
My first love
I remembered the 13 year old me, who trusted her own knowing beyond any shadow of doubt. I remembered the teenager in me who went ahead and forged a path for herself, trusting that the Lord will provide. I trusted, I had complete faith. I did not have any past experiences to refer to, but I had a deep sense of knowing that whatever I believe and feel inside me, this was my true north.
My first love, was a teenager hiking on the N3 road, having faith, that even in the harsh world of kidnappers and scary stories of hitch hiking, mine would be a different story to tell. I was going for my dreams and no one was going to stop me
My first love, was me cutting my hair and going bold, because I said to myself “I never want to worry about the cash to do my hair”, looking beautiful was not a priority, studying and changing the world was the goal
My first love, was me braving the wilderness of University, two years not knowing what sanitary pads are and relying on pieces from a washed out bed sheet that my mom cut out for me. It was me wearing clothes with holes on them but not allowing them deter my confidence because I was going for gold.
My first love, was faithing it through university, with minimal access to resources but going for gold. My first love, was my rise in the corporate world, the clearly visible anointing and God’s presence, as He honoured my faith I and saw that he loved me so much and I knew that all things are possible
Certainty and threats to our faith
“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Faith also means reaching deeply within, for the sense one was born with, the sense, for example, to go for a walk.” Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
I concur with Dr Brene when she says, wholehearted living requires becoming comfortable with uncertainty. Indeed when I was young I drank milk and God showed up and honoured my innocence. Upgrading to a meat platter requires some growing up and double the courage I have ever mastered in my entire life.
Going at it alone was never an issue when I was younger, but as I grew, I identified that there was a sense of belonging that I desired and had not learned how to cultivate it. And at times this need meant limiting what makes me to stand out. But this belonging is sometimes a fear of being vulnerable and going at it alone. I definitely concur, that as a church girl, being in a crowd with people of similar pace, path, provides more assurance and yes also belonging. Being completely different might not always be welcomed or I perceive it that way at least.
This makes sense as to why many church people in my eyes were highly predictable in their deeds and future
The biggest challenger of faith for me has been past experiences. As I grew up into adulthood , the box of experiences, some mine or colleagues, relatives and friends become more visible and REAL. I have also learned that no matter the faith, no one can take my experiences away, my experiences are my truth. My experiences are all that I know and my own story.
So with life sadness and disappointments, it becomes easier to lean into certainty as a tool or solution to avoid failure and or disappointments. And this is the biggest LIE of them all which leads to nothing but mediocrity and sadness. In fact this lesson is closely linked to that of perfectionism
The saying that if I do it right correctly I am avoid pain . Certainty is the groundwork for perfectionism.
It says , if I can control it , enroll it and direct it , the outcome is certain and assured …
With regards to past experiences in fact , I can identify with Mephibosheth , the bible says (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled.
It is very difficult to trust again that anyone else can carry you and set the table before your enemies, when you have been dropped before and you became lame. It is challenging to rise again, when you have bad experiences, some from your own doing, some made with good intentions. Especially those experiences which yielded the not so desirable outcomes and especially when they occur publicly for everyone to see and witness.
My experiences have the potential to paralyse me, if I am not careful. My disappointments have a potential to lock me up in a deserted place , where I am locked up and I don’t dream, I don’t fight , I don’t rise up . . . because I failed before, because I was embarrassed, because people saw me fail and so I will not try again until I am sure that I will get it right . . .
And this is not how life is supposed to be, we are supposed to try again, trust again and believe again, even if it was our fault , we must rise again
Certainty about the future
One of the areas that I was always curious in was making a decision on whom to marry. I specifically recall a discussion with a friend of mine who had recently got married in 2007, she said “marriage is taking a risk”, I was so taken aback by that, ohw my goodness, I thought to myself how can it be a risk taking project?? Goodness me??? I didn’t get it.
Innocently because for the longest time in my church girl life, I had heard that one can AVOID failing in marriage through the following:
· God giving you assurance of the partner to marry as a result this will eliminate the possibility of divorce
· But unfortunately , I lived through the full circle of the church and quickly realized divorces occurring even for the “confirmed” by the vision from God marriages
· But I still genuinely thought there is some way of “avoiding “this uncertainty
· One of the solutions was fasting and prayer – seeking clarity – and yet I still witnessed the end of those marriages
· The big explanations would come and say , God did not intend for you to marry that person – yet still, second, third marriages ended up in the same place
I finally understood this phenomenal as I grew up and when time came for me to make my own decisions in love. I still needed God’s assurance that He’s got me and that I will not move without Him. However I had a deep sense of knowing that only grace, faith, trust and working out my own faith and trust in God, can sustain any commitments on this planet.
Most importantly I realized that our need for certainty about the future is at times our own way of neglecting our own responsibilities to working out our own faith. It seemed to me like we go to God and say give me, and as we sometimes say in church, if He gave me nobody can take it away, yet we become the very first people, seconding and delegating our roles and responsibilities to third and fourth parties who were not party to this commitment
I recall the Holy Spirit saying to me, Nomusa, if you have to work out your own faith, how much more about marriage?
The degree of assurance and confirmation from God, does not remove the possibility of a marriage ending, that’s your responsibility, do not delegate it to anyone!
The little foxes
Song of Songs 2:15 New International Version (NIV)
15 Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom.
I have seen the little foxes in my life showing up, sometimes disguised as dreams and passion. We identified this quickly with my husband, how the need to know that we are going to be alright, can take away from the fulfillment and joy for living our lives today and now.
We once stayed in a 2 bedroom townhouse and we had to share our space. We quickly noticed how uncomfortable it was and we had this one day where sat down and identified this feeling as a little fox. Yes the place was cramped, but we had a lot to be grateful for. We were building our dream of raising 2 baby girls, yes sleeping on the floor for 2 years was uncomfortable but it did not take away the joy of the moment and the fact that our babies were healthy. From that day onwards, we adopted to intentionally hang out in our space, make braais, and invite people over. The need for certainty about our future was not going to rob us, of the sweet little moments of the day to day life we were leading.
I also saw the little foxes as I was worrying about baby number 3, when might we think she / he might come, when can I anticipate to stop family planning etc etc . Meanwhile we are raising a 3 year old and a 5 year old. I heard the Holy Spirit syas, you are worried about the future and you want assurance today and neglecting your two beautiful gifts , that you prayed so hard for and said you are grateful, yet your behavior is far from that of a grateful person.
You see when you are a vision board type of a person you want to be aware of things before they occur. It gives a sense of control and sometimes a false inclination that you can detect and prevent any unforeseen circumstances
But life doesn’t always work like that
Certainty about the future sometimes goes hand in hand with being ungrateful for what we have and our lack of faith.
But thank God for Christ Jesus, today we can pray like that man in the Bible and say Lord I believe but help my unbelief
I do believe now when the word of God says now faith is the substance of things hoped for ….. right now in my life .. this substance is gratitude and peace of mind
Because when you have faith that all will be alright , you live in the moment of gratitude and not discontent. You works towards your goals enjoying the process and being present on the process !!!! The danger of being discontent is that you will actually achieve your dreams and still not realize it because you were ungrateful
Lastly, I have had to be careful with my need for mentorship . I wrote a post when I was 26 years old and stated that I needed a mentor. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was in a process of making a big life decision and was not trusting myself enough to go at it alone.
I recall the whisper saying … be willing to make the decision and be willing to fail !
You see sometimes our need for a mentor is for us to have someone make decisions on our behalf. And I have realized that a hundred percent of the time we are capable of making our own decisions and living with the consequences. I am in now way discounting the fact finding process and research . But I know for a fact that the majority of issues we consult on , truly required to go at it alone
But because we need validation and assurance that we will belong even if things go south. We step out and ask. I have equally seen dangers of advise given with an intention by the mentor to self correct their own past mistakes. A very dangerous thing to the mentee
So I have come to accept that I can do all things and that over consulting to give certainty does not reduce the failure rate nor reduce hurt and disappointment
I have reached a point in life where I have to be comfortable with uncertainty because I trust the one who knows the future
So help me God
And so this is how I dig deep. I have been reading this chapter for over year and have been able to link from my past areas where I needed assurance about the future. In all the times when I felt anxiety about something , for the past year I would just play this chapter on Audible and I would suddenly name the exact area and define why I feel anxious from a lack of knowing
These moments could be a situation in my relationship with my husband or kids . I would after identifying the real issue , come and discuss with honesty and indicate why the need for knowing and how best to handle it or to surrender it to God
Have your past experiences limited your level of faith or do your passion and dreams make you forget that you have come so far and must take a moment to enjoy your life today ? I would like to hear from you 👍🏾